How in the world did I manage to make it through 2002? These 6 AM games are already killing me. OK, here we go…the kids are leading the players out to the field. How do they pick which kids get to do that? Do you suppose there’s a lottery or do you think it’s kids of the Europe’s rich and famous? I wonder if there’s any special training required. “Help wanted: 4-7 year olds needed to walk and hold hands.” It’s a like a job you’ve been training for your whole young life.
Serbian national anthem is playing. Sounds rather bombastic, and there are apparently no words, which is probably good since I can’t think of a lot of words that rhyme with “Slobodan Milosevic.” I can think of plenty that rhyme with “Kosovo,” however. Less than ten years from international pariah to World Cup participant. Excuse me while I bemoan that lack of moral quality control in FIFA’s hierarchy. Was Germany allowed to participate in the 1950 World Cup, the first post-World War II, after the Nazis’ genocidal behavior? Not hardly. (And neither was Japan.) Anyway, here we are. Pardon my cheering for Netherlands.
Netherlands’ fans are in fine voice for their national anthem, an ancient song which is something of a prayer in the style of the Book of Psalms. I doubt the Dutch will need to do a whole lot of praying.
Netherlands is clad all in orange, and on at least one player that includes the shoes. I have never wanted to wear orange shoes in any context. Early action is fast-paced, with both teams getting up and down the field. Lot of whistles, too, so I’m expecting a card or two before this is over.
S-M is doubling Robben on the wing whenever he gets the ball. Huge chance for S-M goes a-begging in the 12th minute. Didn’t double Robben that time. Danger, danger Will Robinson! Another chance for S-M. Robben escapes in the 17th minute! Goal! Mr. Orange Shoes slots it! 1-0 Netherlands. An offsides trap against somebody that fast is clearly a mistake. S-M just needs to stay composed. They’re getting chances, too.
Robben with a huge blast in the 21st. Well-saved. Corner nets nothing. 22nd minute: Dutch player runs into the ref. Good comedy as the ref stumbles about. Corner to S-M. Way too strong. Lots of good action in the opening 30 minutes. Both defenses look vulnerable.
Ah, our first yellow in the 33rd minute. Stankovic of S-M takes down a guy on the run. Seems to take the yellow with the tranquility of somebody who’s seen greater violence, and thinks, “Yellow card, sure, no problem.”
Robben just misses in the 36th. Didn’t double him that time. Apparently, Arjen Robben has been described as “the best player to be produced by Holland since the great Johan Cryuff.” Maybe so, but that was a crappy corner kick. Nonetheless, it’s clear that he’s got both talent and wheels. And he’s 22. He’s got two or three more World Cups in front of him.
Two minutes of extra time. Serbia with a decent shot, but no. Ok, that’s it: 1-0 Netherlands at half.
Univision is showing McDonald’s salute to Mexico commercial. Happy to make 12-20 million illegal immigrants feel right at home so long as they can sell some burgers along the way.
Second half underway. Lots of early pressure from S-M. Robben with another cross. Pity the poor defender. Netherlands with the run of play in the opening 10 minutes. Yellow to Bronckhorst of Netherlands at 56 minutes.
First sub for the Dutch at 59th minute. Robben run nets a corner. Good chance for Netherlands; keeper does well. Yellow to Koroman of S-M for dissent. Getting cards for dissent almost always very stupid. No exception here. First sub for S-M in the 66th minute. Second sub for Netherlands at 68th minute.
Good strike from S-M in the 71st. Keeper did well, though now it looks like he’s cramping. Another Netherlands player slightly injured as well. Looks everybody will be OK. Robben shot blocked for corner in the 74th. S-M with a chance. Robben wide right just after.
Yellow card to S-M which the replay shows was a whiff of a tackle. Looked like a foul in real-time, though. Dutch with a chance now on the right side. Oh! Just wide left. Nice shot, though Univision cuts away from it to show the Mexico team arriving for their game with Iran. Thanks.
Dutch keeper challenged on a high ball. Questionable foul call. Keeper cramping again. 83rd minute now. Yellow to Netherlands for delay. Five minutes plus injury time for S-M. Third sub for Netherlands. Dutch into their possession game when they have the ball. S-M wins a corner. Robben puts one just wide left on the counter. Two minutes left. Robben on a good run fouled. Gavrancic of S-M gets the yellow. Should be a good chance for the Dutch just outside the box. Three minutes injury time. Off the wall. Nothing.
About one minute. That’s it. 1-0 Netherlands. Good game. Very much looking forward to seeing more of Robben this tourney.